(photo credit: TAZPIT)
Gratuitous violence is despicable under any circumstances.
But when violence is used to terrorize and bully a group into abdicating basic human rights, it becomes a threat to the foundations of democracy.
On Wednesday night, Mu’taz Hijazi, a resident of Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood who is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, tried to assassinate Rabbi Yehudah Glick. This was a horrific act of violence directed at a man who was singled out for his religious and political beliefs.
What makes this crime all the more tragic was the fact that Glick, who is a vocal activist for the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, is also a strong defender of Muslims’ right to freedom of religious expression on what they call Haram a-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary. Unlike some proponents of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount who call to destroy Muslim houses of prayer and replace them with a rebuilt Jewish Temple, Glick advocates joint Jewish-Muslim prayers on the site that is so sacred to both religions.
Glick was in critical condition at press time. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Unfortunately, terrible acts of violence such as the assassination attempt against Glick are too often explained away or even justified by pointing to a myriad of “causes.”
The socioeconomic plight of Jerusalem’s Arabs is sometimes cited as the cause of violence, as is the “incitement” of Jews such as Glick who dare to demand to visit the Temple Mount, the holiest place on the earth for Jewish believers.
We must disabuse ourselves of the idea that innocuous acts such as Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount are the trigger for Muslim rioting, stone-throwing, destruction and murder. Rather the Arabs who commit these offenses choose to lash out against Jews in order to intimidate them into ceding their rights. And this violent behavior does nothing to improve the socioeconomic situation of Jerusalem’s Arabs, it only deepens the rift between Jews and Arabs.
Permitting Jews – or members of any other religion for that matter – to visit the Temple Mount and even pray there should be a religious freedom that is carefully protected by a democracy. Many brave men and women have given their lives for this freedom and others, which we often take for granted. Caving in to the demands of militant Muslims out of a desire to avoid “escalation” is capitulating to extremism and betraying the ideals of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Hijazi, who was convicted of seven counts of arson and had his prison sentence extended twice for attacking prison guards, made his intentions clear shortly after he was released in 2012.
“I am happy to be back in Jerusalem. If only I can be a bone in the throat of the Zionist program to Judaize Jerusalem,” he said.
Hijazi and many other Palestinians, including the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, are opposed to the very idea of Jews asserting their historic and religious connection to Jerusalem.
Indeed, Abbas is a party to the bullying tactics used to prevent Jews from exercising their right to visit the Temple Mount. Just last month during a meeting in Ramallah, he declare that “settlers” have no right to “desecrate” the Temple Mount.
“It is our scared place, al-Aksa is ours, this Noble Sanctuary is ours. They have no right to go there and desecrate it,” Abbas said.
And after the assassination attempt on Glick, Abbas issued no condemnation.
Abbas did condemn Israel’s subsequent decision to restrict access to the Temple Mount as a “declaration of war,” when Israel’s intention was to prevent an escalation of violence.
We must not give in to Palestinian intimidation and violence.
Coexistence must be based on mutual respect and the upholding of basic rights. As long as the Palestinian political leadership continues to reject the Jewish people’s historic and religious ties to Jerusalem and to the Land of Israel and uses violence to bully and intimidate, peace will remain out of reach.